As the long days of summer begin to roll in, one of my favorite times to fish is at first light. When I refer to first light, I really mean that it should still be dark when you are walking to the stream and rigging up. If you are not in position to start fishing when the blue haze begins to form, then you are too late. Nymphing can be very good at these times, but I like to focus my efforts on streamer fishing. Usually the bite window is short – maybe an hour if you are lucky.
On this particular morning, I was right on schedule as I slowly waded into position. The water was average flows, but muddy from a brief overnight thunderstorm. I used the murky water to my advantage, creeping into position until I was slightly more than a rod’s length away from the bank. The dark stain and low light concealed my presence from the fish as I worked my way up river. I was not casting in a traditional fly fishing sense. Most cases I was underhand lobbing, call it dabbing, my streamers in amongst overhanging brush, limbs, bushes, trees, tires, kid’s toys, and whatever other items jutted out from the bank creating a current break for the fish.
Over the next half an hour, I worked slowly up to the bend in the river with a pair of my highest confidence streamer patterns. I took a few smaller fish and spotted a few other flashes near my flies. You can never be sure, but I’d like to think that at least a few sizable fish had come over for a look at the flies, hidden with perfect camouflage, low light, and the stained water.
So far this morning was not really what I was hoping for, but all it takes is one good fish to change the mood. So I pressed on, almost in a trance – lobbing, retrieving, stepping. Once I reached the bend, I turned around and fished my way back downstream, covering the same water a second time. I’ve found that a downstream approach, where you are retrieving your flies back upstream towards you, sometimes works better in higher, stained water. Although it is slightly unnatural to be pulling your patterns back upstream through heavy water, the retrieve is slower, and it gives the fish more time to react to the fly.
I had just about reached my starting point for the morning when I placed a cast on the upstream side of a bush, within inches of the bank. A noticeable bulge on the surface, notified me of the presence of an underwater object. It created a nice cushion in front of it, easily significant enough to hold a good fish. First strip there was a quick flash, followed by the sound of the drag piercing through the calm morning silence.